On Mandela Day, the Treatment Action Campaign protested at Khayelitsha District Hospital demanding better services
The Treatment Action Campaign, an NGO that fights for access to quality public healthcare, supported a protest at Khayelitsha District Hospital (KDH) on Nelson Mandela Day.
Mary-Jane Matsolo, the TAC Western Cape Provincial Manager, told Elitsha that the protest was intended to “shame the hospital and bring to light the gross, inhumane and unjust treatment of patients.” A press release from the organisation states, “Recent monitoring by TAC branches at the hospital and numerous further complaints over the last two months present a bleak picture of overcrowding, shortages of staff, poor staff attitude and neglect of patients, a shortage of beds, and people forced to sleep on the floors of a hospital full to capacity.”
According to the statement the hospital was built to serve 400,000 people, but the actual population of Khayelitsha is closer to two million.
Noncedo Bulana, a TAC activist, participated in the protest because of her own experience of taking her 19-year-old son to the hospital this week. Bulana said her son was checked into the hospital around noon on Sunday, and when she returned at 7 a.m. the next day he was sleeping in a chair. She was then asked to return at 3 p.m. when her son wanted to leave due to extreme discomfort.
“I just asked who was taking care of my son, it wasn’t right. I asked for a blanket, and they gave me a blanket for him. I was like, ‘This boy needs help’,” she said. “I just left, wanting to cry. The following day I found out he was taken up to ward number two, where he was sleeping with many men.”
Bulana said she is struggling to visit her son each day because she cannot afford the transport cost and it pains her to see her son in such conditions. “I’m in this dilemma, for the doctor took some blood from him and I have to pay for it. My mother went to see him, but she is incredibly old and not well. They were supposed to tell me what was wrong yesterday, but couldn’t. He’s not getting the proper attention he needs,” she said. Her son is still in the hospital.
Matsolo said that the protest was necessary since TAC has been bringing patients’ grievances to the attention of the hospital since 2013. Many individuals have reported inadequate care, such as night-shift nurses ignoring patients, nurses distracted by their phones instead of providing care, and a patient found by their relative wearing the same adult diaper for 24 hours according to TAC’s press release.
This was not the first time that community members marched on the hospital for poor services. In April a community protest led by the Economic Freedom Fighters handed over a memorandum demanding better services from the hospital. “On the 23rd of April we sent [KDH] a list of demands and suggestions on how to implement them and requested a response in writing. Nothing happened,” Motsolo included. “What’s the point of having a fancy hospital with fancy machinery but yet the people there are crying and not being serviced.”
Matsolo said that TAC was integral to the opening of the hospital six years ago, and has remained active in monitoring it since. “We’ve been diplomatic. We’ve understood, and engaged in boardrooms and meetings and correspondences, with little effect,” she said. “[Wednesday] was a step up; we’re talking about peoples’ lives here. When we do these engagements we do not take them lightly [and] we needed a more aggressive step.”
About 50 men and women of all ages demonstrated loudly inside and outside of the hospital until they were acknowledged. KDH’s CEO Anwar Kharwa eventually came out during the course of the protest and apologised to participants for the service issues. Matsolo told Elitsha that Kharwa publicly recognised that the hospital hasn’t taken many steps in disciplining its staff and alluded to a need to work more closely together, promising to send a formal response to TAC later in the week.
Sithembiso Magubane, the principal communications officer of the Western Cape Department of Health, said KDH has 300 beds and currently operates at a 130% bed occupancy rate as it provides district and regional healthcare, and the hospital refers patients to other hospitals when they require further specialist treatment.
“There are a number of plans and interventions planned for the hospital to improve its services. Some have been put into operation, others are in the process of implementation.
The Department will release its updated plans in a statement next week, which will inform the community of pending plans,” he wrote in an e-mail to Elitsha.